The Martian — ARES: live | Our Greatest Adventure

Information elements and project structure

7 min readMar 9, 2020
Futuristic dissemination (27 August 2015) — In a studio set up through a holographic system, the American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson conducts a plausible special episode of StarTalk set in 2035, introducing the public to the scientific context, the risks of interstellar travel, the functions of the HAB and to the potential developments of spatial colonization associated with the Ares III mission.

1. Introduction

This document proposes an analysis of Ares: live | Our Greatest Adventure (3:33), promotional video of The Martian (R. Scott, 2015).
The research considers the product and its related materials by studying the creative choices, the informative properties, the modalities of visual representation and promotion.

Introductory note: The Martian (Ridley Scott, 2015) is set in 2035–36. During the Ares III mission to Mars, astronaut Mark Watney is mistakenly considered dead during a heavy storm, and abandoned by his crew. But Watney survives and wakes up alone on the hostile planet. With few supplies available, Watney must use ingenuity, intelligence and a spirit of survival to find a way to report to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to try to bring to program a bold — if not impossible — rescue mission. As these stories of incredible courage evolve, the world unites to support Watney’s return.[1]

1.1. Extended entertainment
During the articulated promotional campaign of The Martian, the series-prologue initiative called Ares: live developed into six main project interventions designed to introduce the fundamental narrative coordinates of the fictional world by outlining scenarios, people, environments, technological context, time intervals and existential conditions related to the film story. Considering the recent sectoral need — which has today become a priority — to transform the promotional campaign of a media product into an additional entertainment experience, the immersive strategies integrated in Ares: live have developed by fragmenting the information into serial videos, with the aim to stimulate commercial curiosity towards the primary product (The Martian), expanding the narrative context with collateral materials
and interdependent informative notions.

2. Analysis

2.1. The Ares: live channel
Conceived as the official YouTube channel dedicated to its space program, Ares: live hosts 6 promotional videos interconnected with the film story of The Martian, published between June and October 2015.

The video series includes:

  1. Farewell
    7 June 2015
    On board the Hermes space station, astronaut Mark Watney personally records a live video to introduce the crewmembers a few hours before leaving the Earth’s orbit for Mars.
  2. The Right Stuff
    4 August, 2015
    During preparation for the Ares III mission, the crewmembers are interviewed by a NASA psychologist after a 10-day isolation period.
  3. Our Greatest Adventure
    27 August 2015
    The American astrophysicist Neil deGrass Tyson presents a brief fictional
    documentary set in 2035, illustrating the main features of the Ares III mission.
  4. Leave Your Mark
    9 September 2015
    Astronaut Mark Watney is filmed during the intense athletic training phase prior to the Ares III mission, promoting Under Armour’s technical sports apparel.
  5. Bring Him Home
    22 September 2015
    The world population mobilizes in a solidarity campaign requesting to bring Mark Watney home through a recovery mission.
  6. Ares 3: Chem Cam
    8 October, 2015
    Having succeeded in remaining alive on Mars, Mark Watney films himself on video inside the housing unit (HAB) intent on performing some scientific experiments planned during the Ares III mission, commenting on his condition and making fun of the other crew members.
Visualization and synthesis of Ares: live promotional materials in order of publication (June-October 2015) and in narrative order (2034–2035/2036)

2.1.3. Our greatest Adventure
27 August 2015

In Our Greatest Adventure (3:33), the famous American astrophysicist and science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson presents a plausible documentary dedicated to the Ares III mission. Conceived as a special TV episode of StarTalk[2] set in 2035, the video briefly introduces the public to the various operational phases, the scientific implications, the logistic functioning and the risks associated with the planned Mars mission. Film sequences, photorealistic holograms and three-dimensional animations complete the presentation, simulating an immersive scenic space entirely dedicated to the space mission.

The holo-room set was a creative choice that allowed us to go on a journey with Neil that would keep the focus on the Hermes and its voyage, bringing the cosmos directly to our host in a futuristic 360° mixed reality setting.”[3]

The information presented concerns:

  • Aircraft
    The description of Hermes, the most complex and costly orbiting space station ever built, presumably inaugurated in 2029 on the occasion of the first human landing on Mars, with the first mission of the Ares program.
  • Period
    The duration of the interplanetary journey to Mars (225 million kilometers in about 124 days) and the calculated potential risks (cosmic radiations, genetic mutations, solar storms, asteroids, meteoroids and possible consequent aircraft failure).
  • Habitability
    The function of the HAB, the earthly housing unit designed to ensure the
    survival of the astronauts on the surface of Mars and to withstand extreme
    conditions (oxygen, radiation, dust storms and glacial temperatures).
  • Research
    The scientific activities[4] conducted during the mission (planned 30 days/31 Sol) to study the biological history of the planet and the possibilities of sustaining life for the development of a future human colony.

Earth, a magnificent world to which we owe our creation no longer seems destined to be our final resting place. […] Our adventure is just beginning.”

Our Greatest Adventure: visual development synthesis — 1) A mountain landscape of Mars; 2) Neil deGrasse Tyson recalls the primordial dream of landing on Mars, which came to fruition with the first human mission on Mars in 2029 after decades of sectorial competition and with the Ares international space program; 3) The Hermes orbiting station is the main aircraft for Mars; 4) The dangers and duration of interstellar travel; 5) The landing on Mars, the function of the HAB to survive on Mars, the hostile meteorological characteristics, and the scientific activities planned for the 30 days of stay. 6) The important scientific implications for studying the potential foundation of future space colonies. 7) Conclusion, saying goodbye and blessing for the Hermes station and for the crew of Ares III (with a team portrait also present in the official Ares III guide). Note: the reading order is lateral, starting from the top left. The number of frames shown does not represent the exact visual development of the video.

Main communicative properties:

  • Extends general knowledge about the Ares III mission, providing a historical global background, scientific notions and updated information.
  • Supports a parallel secondary narrative (on Earth) revealing informative
    elements on the sociocultural context of the fictional world (media interest, linguistic, historical, scientific, and technological aspects), simulating the representation of realistic contents.
  • Combines the authority and professionalism of a real subject (Neil deGrasse Tyson) and an existing television program (StarTalk) to present fictional and realistic notions, surprising the expectations of public entertainment with contaminated communication methods.
  • Integrates creative and information methods related to the documentary genre and to television science programs produced by National Geographic, such as StarTalk and Cosmos.
  • By intercepting a diverse audience, it can increase the perceived emotional
    value in regards to National Geographic, underscoring the company’s initiative to experiment with innovative promotional ideas and increase sectoral competitiveness by interacting with similar media products.

See the complete analysis of the Ares: live promotional campaign.

Notes List

[1] Official description on Youtube. The exclusive world premiere of The Martian was hosted during the Toronto Film Festival (10–11 September 2015). See

[2] Founded in 2015, the program produced by National Geographic and conducted by Neil deGrasse Tyson proposes scientific conversations by interviewing international experts and scientists. The video is written and directed by Chris Eyerman in collaboration with Ash Thorp, Michael Rigley, Will Melton, RSA and Juice. The publication was coordinated with the social channels of NASA, National Geographic, StarTalk and broadcast in a reduced version on the National Geographic Channel during commercial breaks. A further project conceived by imagining existing initiatives but projected in future scenarios is Peter Weyland’s 2023 TED Talk, video of a fictional TED conference realized for the promotional campaign of Prometheus (R. Scott, 2012), exploring an interval of 70 years of the film story.

[3] Interview to Chris Eyerman. See

[4] See the references in Ares: Chem Cam (8 October 2016), where Mark Watney records himself while performing an organic chemistry experiment.

Study method and sources
This document is the result of a compilation process created with scientific and accessibility requirements. Special care has therefore been devoted to coherently structuring the texts and analysis sections, to selecting functional visual devices, and to providing verified information by correctly citing sources of documentation, with the final objective of sharing useful material for the purposes of study, criticism and information. References to all the sources consulted have been inserted using numbers in square brackets [] and reported in the references at the conclusion, with the relative explanatory notes. The hyperlinks’ accessibility was verified in November 2015, date of the document’s first publication. A final revision was made in May 2019.

Legal notice
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The author releases the document through the license:

  • Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0.
    This allows third parties to share the published material indicating the origin, respecting the same type of original license and prohibiting the use for commercial purposes.

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